Carl Lewis - Growing Up
Famous Sports StarsTrack and FieldCarl Lewis Biography - Growing Up, The "next Jesse Owens", The 1984 Olympics, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY LEWIS:
Lewis was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1961 to Bill and Evelyn Lewis, both teachers and gifted athletes. Evelyn was herself an accomplished track and field athlete who competed in the 80-meter hurdles at the Pan American Games while in college. Bill played football at the Tuskegee Institute, where the couple met. They worked as teachers and marched in civil-rights protests, and Martin Luther King, Jr. baptized Carl's brothers.
The Lewis family moved to New Jersey in 1963. There, Carl and his younger sister Carol picked up their parents' passion for sports. They built a homemade long-jump pit in their back yard and invited friends over for neighborhood track meets. At first, Carl didn't show much athletic talent. "I was small for my age, the runt of the family, the nonathlete," he wrote in his autobiography, Inside Track. But when he heard about Bob Beamon's world record long jump of 29 feet 21/2 inches at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968, Lewis marked off the distance in his front yard.
As a kid, Lewis participated in track meets named for Jesse Owens, and he met Owens at two of the meets. He had a growth spurt while a sophomore in high school, and
soon became a track and field standout. He put the number 25 on his jacket to show he wanted to jump 25 feet before he graduated. By his senior year, he was meeting his goal regularly. The day of his senior prom, he beat his aging sprinting idol, Steve Williams, in a race.
Several colleges tried to recruit him. In his autobiography, Lewis named the coaches and shoe companies who offered him money and gifts in violation of NCAA rules. He accepted shoes and equipment from Puma and Adidas while still in high school, and signed a six-figure contract with Nike while in college. He chose to go to college at the University of Houston in 1979, though no one there offered him money or a shoe deal, he wrote, so he could compete under well-regarded coach Tom Tellez—who became his personal coach after graduation.